Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby hosted a major conference at Lambeth Palace July 13 to explore how people with disabilities can participate fully in the life of the church. The event explored the barriers these people can face in church life, and what churches can do to ensure that all members can take part and share their gifts. It was also a chance to celebrate those places and individuals who have enabled increased participation within the church for those with disabilities.
Lambeth Palace partnered with Livability, a disability charity that connects people with their communities, to produce the event. Kate Monaghan, a Christian journalist and filmmaker who presents the BBC Ouch disability podcast, also participated as the facilitator of the conference. John Swinton, Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care at Aberdeen University, gave the keynote speech.
The conference included videos and live discussions, putting the voices of those who live with disability at the centre of the event. Worship opened and closed the day.
Welby described the event as both humbling and inspiring. “I passionately believe that these kinds of conversations, and especially this kind of deep listening to those with lived experience of disability—is absolutely vital if we are to be a church where everyone is valued and everyone belongs,” he said.
Marking the event, Livability has launched a new resource called “More Than Welcome” to support churches in creating a place of welcome, inclusion and participation with people with disabilities.